There’s no danger of flour running out. The industry has access to grain, has capacity, and will produce products our customers/consumers want as fast as we can
-Christopher Clark, vice president of communications for the North American Millers’ Association
I can absolutely and unequivocally say there is no shortage. What we have is a demand issue.
– Robb MacKie, the president and CEO of the American Bakers Association
The extraordinary demand has put stress on flour production capacity, packaging capacity, transportation capacity, and warehousing capacity. This stress has resulted in some temporary shortages on the retail grocery store shelves. Rest assured that we are doing everything in our power to meet this unprecedented demand.
-Rogers Foods Canada
As the realization that toilet paper is perhaps not the item most needed in these times of having to stay at home, people have suddenly realized that they a.) have to eat, and b.) have plenty of time to spend in the kitchen!
Therefore, suddenly, both flour and yeast have become the new toilet paper. The flour shelves are virtually empty. Online flour companies cannot keep up with the demand – in spite of the fact that they state categorically that they have plenty on hand in their warehouses.
As a result of these “shortages”, in various news sources, and on FB, I’m suddenly seeing post after article after article giving or asking for advice on how to make a sourdough starter. And it’s driving me mad that there are answer after answer after answer pointing to sourdough starter recipes that call for huge amounts of it to thrown away.
Though the New York Times reported last week that there has been no major disruptions to the American food supply chain, consumers have been stockpiling. This fear-induced behavior has created an environment where grocery stores—which are typically stocked with enough items for daily, not multi-weekly, need—cannot keep up with demand. […]
“There has honestly never been a better time to build your own sourdough starter,” NYC-based pastry chef Zoe Kanan told me in an email. Requiring just flour, water, and time, sourdough starter relies on wild yeast naturally present in flour and in the air of your home.
– Rebecca Firkser, Food52 | Here’s Why All the Yeast Is Sold Out Right Now Plus, what to do if you can’t find it, 28 March 2020
[A]ll you really need to get a culture bubbling is some quality flour and pure water to farm the microbes responsible for fermentation. […]
In a small bowl, stir together 60 g / ½ cup flour and 60 g / 6 tablespoons water to form a thick and sticky mixture with no dry lumps remaining. Cover loosely with cheesecloth or a clean towel and set in a warm location for 2 to 3 days or until you detect a light, boozy scent and see bubbles breaking the surface. Discard half and add another 60 g / ½ cup flour […]
– Sarah Owens, Food52 | A Simple Sourdoube Starter, 8 March 2019
Discard half?! Why? And in these days of difficulty in finding flour on the supermarket shelves, it seems even more important not to throw any of your precious flour away.
Mercifully, there are a few people who are addressing this aspect of needless waste.
As more people bake their blues away while stuck at home during the COVID-19 pandemic, yeast is reportedly becoming harder to find on grocery store shelves. […]
The Verge asked Stephen Jones, director of Washington State University’s Bread Lab, for simple instructions. What you’ll actually be doing is capturing wild yeast and bacteria that’s already present in the air or in the flour to make a “sourdough starter.” This is what bakers have relied on for generations before commercial yeast became available less than 100 years ago. […]
If you’re feeling at all intimidated, you can take comfort in knowing that people have been making bread this way for thousands of years. There’s very little risk of messing up your starter, according to Jones. It might smell a little “cheesy” around day three or four, but as long as it’s not slimy or smells putrid (this is rare, Jones says), then you’re in the clear. There’s also some flexibility, so none of the measurements Jones gives need to be exact and you won’t have to worry if you forget to “feed” the starter one morning. “We’ve got enough pressure right now,” Jones says. “Take the pressure off yourself and just relax and enjoy.”
– Justine Calma, The Verge | How to make your own yeast for baking
You probably already have what you need at home
“For home bread bakers who don’t have to make identical bread every day, the dirty little secret is that you can use a mature starter that’s not at its absolute peak and the bread will still work,” says Niko Triantafillou, an avid home baker whose full-time job is at Citigroup. Triantafillou started baking his own bread about five years ago for fun, and because, at least for him, naturally leavened breads taste better and are easier on the digestive system.
– Daniela Galarza, Epicurious | Do You Really Have to Discard Sourdough Starter?
We’ve been big fans of Jane Mason’s (All You Knead is Bread) 5 day “no discarding” starter since the outset. The whole wheat starter that I created (without throwing any of it away) in July 2017 is still going strong…..
- How to capture wild yeast Natural Wheat Starter in 5 Days (100% hydration) based on a recipe in “All You Knead is Bread” by Jane Mason
In fact, the following statement from Jane Mason’s website (also echoed in her book), is exactly why we decided to try her method:
You do not need to feed your starter slavishly every day. I once found some of the 1857 in the back of the fridge that had been there for about 5 years. I refreshed it and made bread. Good as new. Remember, sourdough was used by people who did not have access to commercial yeast – cowboys rolled it up in their bed rolls, pioneering women transported it in the back of covered waggons, families living on the steppes of Russia managed to keep theirs alive in spite of harsh Siberian winters. You can freeze it, you can dry it, you can ignore it – it will always come back.
– Jane Mason, Virtuous Bread | Making sourdough starters
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